DAR ES SALAAM – Tanzania’s government and freight industry is mounting a multi-pronged attack on an army of barriers slowing cargo traffic on its lifeline central corridor highway to boost regional growth and development through smoother trade.
“There is no doubt that provision of improved transport infrastructure and services are a process which is critical for ongoing growth and development, “the Executive Secretary of the Central Corridor Transit Transport Facilitation Agency (CCTTFA), Rukia Shamte said.
She spoke at the launch of the Central Corridor Transport Observatory, an I.T.-based system aimed at identifying the innumerable procedural and physical roadblocks that slow traffic within Tanzania and to neighbouring countries, raising the eventual cost to consumers.
The Observatory is one of several initiatives backed by TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) to accelerate and increase trade within the East African Community (EAC) and beyond to grow prosperity for its 140 million citizens by lowering costs and improving access.
“We’re helping set up modern computerized systems and databases to amass all the evidence needed to help the government and private sector overturn Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) to trade and cut the cost of imports, which can be as much as 45 percent in landlocked countries,” said Scott Allen, Deputy CEO of TradeMark East Africa (TMEA).
The initiatives track transport delays and holdups so that they can be logged and followed in real-time and then forwarded to the relevant government department or private sector agency for a solution.
“If 45 percent of anything, even the cost of a lollipop for a child in Kigali, is due to transport costs, anything that cuts them, especially time and money-consuming delays on the road, will help improve things for everyone,” said Omar Kizango, Chief Operations Officer of the Tanzanian Truck Owners Association (TATOA).
The Observatory works by gathering data from the ports, warehouses, roads authorities, chambers of commerce, customs clearing agencies and road transport associations using GPS and SMS technology to identify hold-ups to use in evidence to lobby in all EAC partner states for their removal.
“I sat in a truck myself to do research. I spent 26 hours at the Gatuna border at Uganda just because their Customs computer system was down,” said Emmanuel Rutagengwa, the CCTTFA Transport Economist. “And then I spent another 10 hours at the Kenyan border waiting for email customs clearance from Nairobi. Talk about time-wasting.”
Another allied initiative is the award-winning SMS and Online NTBs Reporting and Monitoring System pioneered by the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA). It won second prize for innovation in a competition organized by the World Chambers of Commerce Federation and is seen in the industry as a trail-blazing weapon against NTBs.
In the small room where the TradeMark East Africa (TMEA)-supplied equipment sits, Mwenze Kabinda sits at his laptop registering the progress of a Tanzanian freight driver on his way from Rwanda to the port of Mombasa in Kenya.
A simple click on the truckers’ icon tells you where the truck is stopped, what sort of delay it is – administrative, legal, standards legislation or whatever – and records it in a database which is connected to all government departments for action. There is a monthly meeting between all stakeholders to review what has been done, and what needs to be done.
“We get anything between one and 10 SMS messages a day,” says Elibariki Shammy, the NTB coordinator at the project. “We’ve identified at least 50 NTBs that are being reviewed by everyone hooked up to the system.”
The most serious NTBs the system has identified are the police, customs, weighbridges, immigration, discrimination against products, rules of origin, standards, infrastructure, and Phyto (health) concerns, he says.
“Before we launched this, there was no proper way or person to report to. You had to write a letter or email. Now it’s in our system and of the 50 cases reported to us over the past year, 20 have been successfully resolved.”